New Delhi, Mar 20 (efe-epa).- India on Friday executed four men who were convicted for the brutal 2012 Delhi bus gang-rape and murder of a young physiotherapy student over seven years ago in a case that triggered global outrage over rampant crimes against women in the country.
The convicts were hanged around 5.30 am (00:00 GMT) in Delhi’s Tihar jail, a day after a court on Thursday refused to stay the death warrants of Mukesh Singh, 32, Pawan Gupta, 25, Vinay Sharma, 26, and Akshay Kumar Singh, 31.
The closure of the case was marked by seven years of a slow judicial process, including numerous appeals and mercy petitions.
“Justice has been done. The nation got justice today,” Asha Devi, the mother of the victim — who was named Nirbhaya (The Fearless One in Hindi) by media outlets – told reporters.
“It was a struggle of seven years. I thank every citizen of this country as well as the government. The hanging was delayed but I am happy that finally they have been hanged.”
The Supreme Court had also rejected multiple last-minute appeals filed by the convicts after the president turned down their mercy pleas.
The defense team of the four convicts chose to file separate and multiple petitions to delay the executions.
The victim’s lawyer Seema Kushwaha criticized the Indian legal system for the delay in justice to victims of sexual violence.
“Many women have not got justice, so many cases are pending. Delay was expected but due to the negligence in the system it has taken so long,” Kushwaha told reporters.
The family and lawyers of the victim, a 23-year-old physiotherapy student who was gang-raped and tortured on a moving bus in December 2012, had reacted with anger and frustration as the executions were postponed thrice over the last two months, barely hours before they were set to be carried out.
This was the first time that four people were hanged almost simultaneously at Delhi’s Tihar prison complex. The hangman was summoned from the nearby city of Meerut.
It was also the first execution in India in five years after the state hanged Yakub Memon in 2015 for his involvement in the terrorist attacks that killed 257 people in Mumbai in 1993.
Authorities enforced strict security measures outside the prison, with a significant presence of police and paramilitary officers. However, a group of people carrying placards against rape celebrated outside the sprawling complex after the executions were confirmed.
Several human rights groups and activists criticized the executions and said the death penalty was not the solution to such crimes.
The European Union, which is strongly opposed to death penalty in all circumstances, condemned the “heinous” crime, but reiterated its opposition to executions.
“The EU recalls its unequivocal opposition to the use of capital punishment in all circumstances. It is a cruel and inhumane punishment, which fails to act as a deterrent and represents an unacceptable denial of human dignity and integrity,” said Virginie Battu-Henriksson, spokesperson for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy at the European Commission.
Avinash Kumar, the executive director of Amnesty International India, said in a statement that it is “unfortunate” that four men were executed “in the name of tackling violence against women”.
“What is needed are effective, long-term solutions like prevention and protection mechanisms to reduce gender-based violence, improving investigations, prosecutions, and support for victims’ families. Far-reaching procedural and institutional reforms are the need of the hour,” he added.
Executions are rare in India although the death penalty is allowed in the “rarest of the rare” crimes, related to murders, murders in rape, abduction or rioting, terrorism and drug offenses.
Six people, including a juvenile, were convicted for brutally assaulting Nirbhaya on a bus while she was returning home from a movie theater with a friend on the night of Dec. 16, 2012.